It's easy to see how debt can creep up for many households between credit card debt, mortgage payments, student loans, and car loans. However, the truth is not all debt is bad. For example, most people need to take on a mortgage if they want to own a home, or many entrepreneurs get their start by using debt to start a small business.
However, if you're working to become debt-free or increase your savings, that's a good thing too. And working towards financial independence means keeping more of your hard-earned money. And, by paying off any outstanding debt more quickly, you're saving money on interest payments in the long run – especially on high-interest debt – and improving your financial future.
If you're looking for ways to save money to reach your financial goals, there are numerous easy ways to do so and improve your finances without negatively impacting your quality of life.
The 10 Easiest Ways To Save Money
It's easy to think of saving money as being restrictive. But many of the best ways to save money involve becoming more aware of your spending habits and making small gradual changes to reduce spending. Here are some of the most straightforward money-saving tips.
1. Track Your Spending
The first step to saving money consistently is understanding where your money goes each month. After all, without a blueprint of your spending, you can't identify potentially harmful habits draining your wallet.
For starters, take some extra time and review the previous few months of your finances. This means looking through online bank transactions and credit card bills to map your spending.
Group monthly expenses by categories like:
- Vehicle expenses
This is the foundation for your monthly budget. You'll notice patterns once you analyze several months of spending, like spending hundreds of dollars on clothing over the past few months or a higher grocery bill than you thought.
It would be best to decide on a dollar figure you're comfortable with for each budget category. Once you know how much you can spend per month, it's time to track your spending to avoid overspending.
Free personal finance software like Mint lets you do this automatically. You can also use a budgeting app called You Need a Budget – or YNAB – to create a personalized budget and monitor spending to ensure you're living within your means.
Get a 34-day free trial of the YNAB app here
This might sound complex, but tools like these can take care of the heavy lifting automatically and help you reach your short-term goals.
Ultimately, tracking your spending is one of the easiest ways to save money and a good foundation for personal finance.
2. Use Coupon & Rebate Apps
Coupon and rebate apps are your best friend when it comes to easy ways to save money. These apps ultimately help you save extra money on categories like groceries, household essentials, cleaning products, and even gas!
Plenty of apps offer a coupon code or cashback rewards for shopping at specific brands.
Some popular coupon and rebate apps you can use to save include:
If you're a frequent online shopper, using money-saving browser extensions that save you the most money and find you the best deal is a great way to save that doesn't require much time or effort.
None of these apps make a massive difference in your monthly spending. But in the aggregate, saving $25 to $50 per month with these apps amounts to hundreds of dollars per year in savings.
The bottom line is that there are creative ways to spend less money while shopping at the grocery store or your favorite online retailers. Even if it seems like minor savings, your effort to save more will be worth it over the year.
3. Create a Weekly Meal Plan
Anytime you waste food, you're wasting money. According to the USDA, food waste in the United States accounts for approximately 30% to 40% of the annual food supply. In 2010, this resulted in around $161 billion worth of wasted food. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid this wasteful habit whenever possible.
If you like getting creative in the kitchen, create a few weeks of meal plans for your household. Then, use your meal plan to make your grocery list, so you know exactly what you need when grocery shopping.
The best way to accomplish this is to stick to a weekly meal plan to know exactly what you're cooking and the ingredients you need. This also reduces impulse purchases when shopping. Alternatively, use free apps like Mealime to create healthy meal plans that suit your dietary preferences and your family's needs.
As long as you steadily reduce your food waste, you can trim your grocery budget and save more money on monthly food costs.
4. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
People forget to cancel subscriptions all the time. When did you last look through your bank account and find a subscription service you forgot you were paying for? If it's been several months or more, it's a good idea to look into this area of spending.
Some familiar candidates for sneaky subscription bills include:
- Gym memberships
- Streaming services
- Free trials, especially for things like VPNs that turn into paid subscriptions
- Subscriptions to online magazines and websites
- Patreon subscriptions
If you use and enjoy it, there's nothing wrong with paying for a service. But be honest with yourself and cancel that unused gym membership or streaming plan that rarely sees use.
You can also use apps like Rocket Money to monitor and cancel unused subscriptions. Rocket Money can also negotiate lower monthly bills for services like your cellphone, cable, and internet plan to help you save even more.
5. Use a Cash Back Credit Card
For zero-effort ways to save money, nothing beats cashback credit cards. You should have a cashback credit card in your wallet if you can use a credit card responsibly. With a cashback credit card, you usually earn between 1% to 2% cash back on everyday spending.
The cashback you earn is typically redeemable for a future statement credit or gift card, so you can use your cashback earnings to save on upcoming purchases. Earning 1% to 2% might sound like a small amount, but if you spend $10,000 per year on that card, that's up to $200 in free money you can put toward your savings goals!
Plus, many credit cards offer introductory bonuses, like bonus cash for spending a certain amount within your first three months. Some cards also have rotating cashback rates of 5% or higher on categories like fuel, travel, and dining, so there's plenty of money on the table.
Again, the only requirement is to pay off your balance on time to avoid paying interest. Cashback credit cards are one of the best ways to save money, but only if you use them responsibly.
6. Try a No-spend Challenge
A no-spend challenge is precisely what it sounds like. You avoid spending money for a specific amount of time. Usually, no-spend challenges last for one or two weeks. More ambitious savers can try a no-spend challenge for a pay period or even an entire month. Ultimately, the point is to limit your spending for a set amount of time to save as much money as possible.
You can still spend money on essentials, like rent, utilities, food, and make all your monthly payments on any debts. But forget about that upcoming shopping trip or dinner during a no-spend challenge!
These challenges might sound intense, but if you've fallen off track with your monthly spending, a no-spend challenge can help kickstart your efforts to save more money and help you achieve specific goals.
7. Switch to a Cheaper Cell Phone Plan
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, the average American spent approximately $94 per month on their cell phone plan. So that's around $1,118 per year just for using your cell phone!
Another easy way to save money is to cut back on some of the frills in your cell phone plan. Also, don't be afraid to ditch your current provider for a cheaper (or even free!) cell phone service.
Companies like Mint Mobile have monthly cell phone plans starting at $15, with unlimited talk and text, nationwide coverage, and 4GB of data. Similarly, Cricket Wireless has a high-speed data plan for $35 per month with auto-pay, unlimited talk and text, and 10GB of monthly data.
Just check your existing contract to ensure you don't pay penalties for ditching your current provider before your contract expires.
8. Save Money on Insurance
Like your phone bill, saving money on insurance is another simple way to reduce your monthly spending. There are also numerous ways to accomplish this.
One common strategy is bundling things like car and home insurance with a single provider, which usually gives you a better rate. If you have two separate insurance policies, check with your insurance agent to see if bundling saves you money.
Alternatively, you can use an online insurance broker to find cheaper insurance policies that suit your needs. For example, Gabi lets you compare home and auto insurance rates from over 40 insurance providers to find the best plans. According to Gabi, users save an average of $961 per year using the service.
You shouldn't expect thousands of dollars in savings. Still, even $20 to $40 of a lower rate is hundreds of dollars in savings annually.
9. Automate Your Savings
Sometimes, the fastest way to build a habit is to automate it. This is especially true if you're struggling to learn how to save money. For example, rather than forgetting to put money aside each month, set up automatic transfers from your checking account into a high-yield savings account.
Doing this ensures you never miss a beat to save more. Plus, the money you put aside can be put toward building an emergency fund or nest egg.
Most online banks let you set up direct deposit. You can also set up deposits to align with payday so you don't feel your checking account is draining.
10. Save Money on Entertainment
Entertainment can be one of the most problematic areas for people's budgets. After all, a few nights out with friends or a busy weekend of activities could cost you hundreds of dollars. But you don't have to give up entertainment to stay on budget.
Instead, one of the best ways to save money involves looking for free or cheap sources of entertainment instead of forking out a ton of money every weekend.
Some examples of accessible or affordable activities you can try include:
- Spending the day at the beach day
- Exploring a local park
- Hosting a potluck with friends instead of going to a restaurant
- Having a picnic in the park
- Having a backyard barbecue
If you're going to spend money on entertainment, try to stretch the money you're spending. For example, if you go out to eat with your kids, look up places that let kids eat for free in your city. Similarly, if you're going to the movies, check if certain days of the week have discount ticket prices.
Even if you can't find a good deal that day, looking for savings before going out will save you money in the long run.
Bottom Line: There Are Easy Ways To Save Money
Learning how to save money is quite simple. First, you must create a monthly budget, track your spending, utilize the best ways to save money and live within your means. With these foundations, you can keep more of your hard-earned money each month and save for the future.
If you can cut costs without significantly changing your lifestyle, it's usually a win, making these saving hacks so useful.
Remember to do everything in moderation; trying different ways to save money is great, but don't put your health or long-term happiness on the line to pinch pennies. If you stick to the basics and remain diligent, you'll have a bright financial future!
This post originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks
Tom is a full-time freelance writer and personal finance blogger originally from Canada. His work has appeared on Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, GOBankingRates, Money Crashers, and more. Tom also runs his own blog and writes for Piggy, a coupon app and online resource that helps people learn to make and save more money.